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  • Test Your Knowledge of Sanremo Music Festival Trivia
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    MARCH 7, 2004 -- My first reaction to the 54th annual Sanremo Music Festival, the enduring annual music competition on the Italian Riviera that ended Saturday, was: "What do you mean there's no Pippo Baudo?" Baudo, a TV legend in Italy, carried last year's festival, which included among the competitors already famous Italian singers -- from Bobby Solo and Little Tony to the 2003 winner Alexia. But this year organizers brought in the glamorous and charming Simona Ventura to take Baudo's place as host. They favored raw talent over celebrity, youth over age, and substance over flash (with the exception of Ventura's bling-bling baubles that single handedly lit up the stage). The result? By week's end I was still missing Baudo, but not nearly as much as before, and I knew Italy had just unearthed a bevy of musical talent that no one would have discovered otherwise.

    Although 2004 winner Marco Masini's song L'Uomo Volante reminded me of a typical Eros Ramazotti hit, his style and charisma were unique. His competitors among this new breed of Italian singers proved that stars do not have to all be packaged the same way to be successful. There was the cherubic Linda, who came in third with her soulful song, Aria Sole Terra e Mare, and second place Mario Rosini with Sei Nella Mia Vita, both of whom dressed and acted more like your average person than your average pop star.

    Despite this new wave of musicians and revolutionary approach to Sanremo, the most memorable part of the festival this year was the return of "i vecchi leoni" - from singers Bobby Solo to Toto Cotugno. These old-timers performed their hits with the inexperienced competitors as though they were passing the torch. For me, the moving renditions of classics like Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu were reminders that Sanremo might evolve but the past is always present. Just how much do you know about the rich history of Italy's famous music festival? Test your knowledge here:

    Q: Who was the artistic director of the 2004 festival and why did his appointment outrage so many people?

    A: Tony Renis, famous for his 1963 Sanremo winner Quando, Quando, Quando, was named the artistic director this year. But 65-year-old Renis has been accused of having ties to the Cosa Nostra crime family. He reportedly spoke highly of his friend American-Sicilian mob boss John Gambino. And in 1971, Italian police said they overheard a phone conversation between Renis and Cosa Nostra founding member John Adonis. Needless to say, his connection to this year's festival was controversial.

    Q: Who won the very first Sanremo Festival?

    A: The year was 1951, and Nilla Pizzi took the top spot for Grazie dei Fior. Pizzi went on to win in '52 as well.

    Q: Who won the most Sanremo competitions?

    A: Domenico Modugno took first place four times, more than anyone else. But it was his very first win in 1958 with Johnny Dorelli for Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu, sometimes referred to as Volare, that made him an international legend.

    Q: Who has entered the most Sanremo competitions?

    A: Milva has participated in Sanremo 16 times but has never won.

    Q: Which Italian singer participated in the 1961 festival while serving the Italian military?

    A: That would be none other than Adriano Celentano.

    Q: Many of the biggest hits to come out of Italy debuted in Sanremo but did not win the competition - from Massimo Ranieri's Erbe di Casa Mia to Alex Britti's 7000 Caffe`. (My prediction: This year's unsung hit Sanremo song will be DJ Francesco's Era Bellissimo, which came in 11th.) In fact, Italian singing sensation Toto Cotugno has been called the king of second place. He won Sanremo only once. What song of his earned the top spot?

    A: The 1980 single Solo Noi was the only Cotugno song to win outright. Classics like Le Mamme and even L'Italiano did not score at the festival - even though they probably went on to win in record sales and certainly in the memories of Italians everywhere.

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